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Black Sea Cruise: Trabzon, Turkey

After a day at sea, our first Black Sea port was Trabzon in Northern Turkey. This was the first day of excursions of the cruise. With the exception of a couple of optional excursions, all the rest are included as part of the educational component of the cruise.

The ship excursion in Trabzon was a visit to the Sumela Monastery, constructed – how I can’t imagine – high in the mountain cliffs about an hour’s drive from Trabzon. The story goes that two monks discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain and decided to construct a monastery there. This begs the question of what on earth the monks were doing on that mountainside, which  you can see from the photograph is steep, almost vertical in fact, and covered with trees.

Our bus left at 8:30 am and we drove for an hour to the first stop- a viewpoint from where you could see the monastery in the distance. It gives one a first perspective of how the structure clings to the mountainside. I marveled at the fact that anything could have been built there. How would they even get building materials up the mountainside- and again I wondered what were the two monks doing in the mountains when they happened on this cave?

When we reached the first  stop we switched to get into smaller vans for a drive up a narrow sharply winding road to the final dropping off point.  From there it was a supposedly arduous hike up to the monastery.

The excursion briefing had warned that the walk up to the monastery was very difficult with over 300 steps. They also issued a dire warning about the slipperiness of the muddy areas of the path, and a difficult switch back-turn around a large tree, where there were no rails and it would be very easy to slip and roll down the mountain.

In reality, we found that a sturdy rail had been erected around the tree area, and the climb was not bad at all. Lots of steps for sure, but there were many people with mobility issues that were able to do it. And it was worth the climb.

It was fascinating to see how the structure had been hewn out of the mountainside.

There were some amazing frescoes still there but many were badly vandalized by people carving their names into the design. When we asked about it, we were told that in fact these were very old  markings so I guess there have been stupid people defacing artwork since time immemorial.

We were back to the bus and got back to the ship around 1 pm. 

Our trio went for a light lunch at the Terrace café deck where they were featuring gyros, a typical Turkish dish, on the deck as well as the usual buffet. Love the lunches on the deck - so relaxing.

Later the Canadian Alumni associations held a cocktail party at 6:30 pm.  I had my picture taken with the other UBC participants on the trip. I was delighted to meet a fellow medical professor from UBC on the cruise.

At 7 dinner was served in the Marco Polo. I was again impressed with the quality of the food. More about dining on the Aegean Odyssey to be described and illustrated in another post.

I always make a resolution before I board a cruise ship that I will control my intake and therefore control my weight. So I absolutely resist all the delicious breads and decline the complementary wine at dinner. At the cocktail functions I have been really good about sipping a little of the wine that is offered, and I avoid any kinds of soft drinks, just as I do when I am at home.

At night in the Charleston Lounge while we are dancing, the waiters bring round a trolley of sweet and savory late night snacks. For example last night they served a delicious ripe cheese on a “thin slice of toasted bread” and meatballs, as well as a variety of sweet snacks. Hard to resist when you have been expending energy on the dance floor.

Later that evening one of the guest lecturers gave a lecture on two myths relevant to the area. One was on the Medea story and the second on Iphigenia. Although that was the talk I was most looking forward to I was somewhat disappointed. Honestly I think I could have given a far more interesting and provocative talk on the subject. But then I suppose I have had an unusually in-depth exposure to the topic of Medea.